INTERVIEW: BROADCAST The Rough With The Smooth (Part 1)


Posted on Jan 16th 2011 09:15 pm

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INTERVIEW: BROADCAST The Rough With The Smoot (Part 1)

Following the untimely death of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan on Friday morning, I have decided to republish the intereview I did with Broadcast back in June 2003, which was published on themilkfactory in July of the same year, as they were gearing up for the release of their second album, Haha Sound. You can also read my tribute to Trish publised on The Liminal.

Only a few weeks before the release of their much-awaited second album, Haha Sound, we met up with Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, James Cargill and Tim Felton in the backyard of a pub situated only minutes away from the Warp offices in North London. Settling down for a spot of lunch, the band, who were just back from a successful US and European tour, talked about the painful recording process of their first album, working on the second album, life on tour and the importance of being creative with EPs.

What have you been up to since The Noise Made By People was released?
Trish: After touring the last album, Steve Perkins, who was playing drums on the album went on to do his own stuff, so we spent a lot of time looking for a new drummer without success. We tried a lot of people, but it just didn’t work out. We also decided to build our own studio. We spent most of 2001 setting it all up, and getting everything ready, but we really struggled to find a good sound, the acoustic in that studio was so crap.

James: We were also running out of money. We never had a lot, and the studio was costing more than we were getting paid.

Trish: The other thing that happened is that Rob (Mitchell, co-founder of Warp) died. That was such a massive loss, and that coupled with how we’d ground to a halt was so annoying and depressing that we said fuck the studio off and let’s go back home.

Tim: It was like everything was changing. We’d got a new studio but that hadn’t worked out, Rob was moving more and more out of the picture because of his illness you know, he’d been diagnosed as having allergies and then we found out he got cancer, so that was changing, and we didn’t have a drummer.

Did you ever think of giving it all up?
Trish: We knew there was always going to be an outcome, we knew there was going to be an album at the end of it, but we didn’t know how long it was going to take, because we couldn’t blame producers and engineers this time.

James: Once we’d moved the studio back home (to James’ flat) and we’d found Neil (Bullock) who plays drums on the new album, and the church hall, it really happened very quickly…

Trish: We were really at our wits end, and we’d been looking for loads of places to set up a studio and we’d really exhausted what we thought was everything locally, and we noticed a jumble sale one Saturday afternoon in the church hall across the road, and there it was, 60ft ceiling, huge wooden floor, wooden panelling… it just sounded beautiful… we would be banging the floor, trying things… We saw a number to hire the hall, and we recorded all the drum parts there.

James: We had the record finished by Christmas 2002 really. So when people think it took us a long time, making the album was actually a short process. It was getting to that point that took us some time, and now it’s waiting for it to be released, because we’ve been sitting on that album for months now.

Isn’t it a bit frustrating when you know you’ve got an album ready to go out?
Trish: Not really because you’re going to do interviews and tour. You’re probably going to talk about this album for months, and we’re already thinking about the next one you know

It took three years for The Noise Made By People to come out, and there were rumours at the time that you found it hard to translate your ideas onto record. What did you find the hardest?
Tim: We knew what we wanted. You spend years just sitting round listening to music and it filters down in the same way in everyone’s head within the group, so it’s hard for a producer to come in and understand what is it you want. I think we needed a great technician or an engineer more than a producer because we knew what sound we wanted.

Trish: What we also realised is that every brain filters information in a very different way. You could say to one producer something… A producer could say “yeah, I can do a wall of sound” for instance, his actual version of a wall of sound or the way he interprets it can be really different from yours. We’d end up arguing with these producers because they couldn’t do what they said they could.

James: And considering how much money we were paying them…

Trish: That was the biggest issue. We were paying big cash for these people, and we didn’t get what they said they were going to do.

Tim: We can put a microphone in front of a drum kit and press record, you know what I mean. There has to be more to it than that to justify the money.

Echo’s Answer was a rather dark and quiet track to release as a first single. Was it you voluntarily taking on preconceptions?
Tim: Not really. The first single we ever did, Accidentals, was quite similar in a way you know… it was almost as empty and had that sort of almost static kind of feel to it. I think we were referring to that really. Obviously, we knew we wouldn’t get in the charts with that one (laughs).

Trish: It was a really nice place to start as well.

You are now a trio but at the time of The Noise…, you also had Steven Perkins and Roj Stevens on board. What happened?
Trish: Steve was never really part of the band, so it was just four of us when we released The Noise… While recording Haha Sound, we’d all started to drift apart from Roj in a way. It just happens really you know, some relationships only last so long, some working relationships are even shorter. We’re still friends, but he’s off doing his own things now, so hopefully, you’ll see him resurface with his own stuff. We hadn’t really been working for long with Roj on the album, but he had a great part in some of the songs, like Colour Me In, producing it and arranging it. We used his sound here and there really. We’re working with Billy Bainbridge from Plone live now.

James: Yes, it’s still five of us on stage.

Trish: Billy’s got his own plans for music as well

No more Plone albums though…
James: Maybe… there’s a Plone album ready to go if anyone wants to put it out…

Was coming from Birmingham an advantage, being outside of London, or was it a handicap when it came to getting some recognition?
Trish: Both really.

Tim: Living in Birmingham allows you to develop away from everything. A lot of bands that come from London are over very quickly because they get interest from opportunist record labels that push them and put all kind of strains on the bands, they don’t allow them to develop properly. The great thing with being signed with Warp as well is that they’re willing to let us do what we want and especially the great thing with Rob was that he would give us the confidence to go in the way we wanted to go. People wanted to sign us in London, we met a lot of record company people, and you could tell we had absolutely nothing in common with them. The only thing they saw in us was some sort of marketing thing. The hunt that goes on for new bands…

At the time, for Warp to sign you was seen as an unusual move…
Trish: It was totally natural for us, because of Rob.

James: You mean it was weird for people who knew the label?

Trish: Because all of a sudden everybody’s foundations were being shook a little. Warp were never about being so rigidly one thing.

James: We’ve been living with that for years, especially in Europe where they’re really into their techno and stuff

Trish: We were seen as ruining the Warp label (band laughs). “Why, oh why?…” I mean, Jimi Tenor was one thing, but Broadcast, fucking hell…

James: I find we get judged differently because of being on that label. We signed to Warp because we loved Rob so much, you know…

Trish: He understood what we were doing. Very rarely do you get to work so closely with the guy who runs and owns the label. It was just perfect really. People can get all uppity about Warp this and that, but if you’d met Steve (Beckett) and Rob, they were really open minded about music.

Did you know them before signing to Warp?
Trish: No, we just got to know Rob during the courting process… well, it’s the wrong word, but you know…

Tim: We didn’t know them before. We heard they were looking to sign new bands, a tape got passed on, and Rob just came to see us play live, he listened to our stuff a few times and he decided he liked it.

James: I think we come under harsher scrutiny being on that label than, say, if we’d just signed to EMI where people would just see us as a rock band or an indie band experimenting or something. You get harsher criticism.

Tim: Journalists, especially lazy ones, look for something to write about, and the contrast with us being on Warp, it’s so simple, and a lot of journalists pick up on that… you know. Is the state of journalism so bad that they can’t see beyond the surface that Warp is a record label that’s opened to new ideas?

Trish: What journalists don’t realise is that a million of other journalists have written that, and that’s why you often get the same questions or the same… “are you sick of the Stereolab comparison?”. Haven’t you guessed that it’s has been asked a million times before.

Tim: If you want to do well as a journalist, maybe consider looking outside of what everyone else is doing. It’s something that’s true with music or any art form.

Mentioning the S word…
James: the Lab?…

yes… In the early days, you were often associated with them. Did you feel like you were part of a scene of some sort?
James: Being in Birmingham and Stereolab living in London, it wasn’t really much of a scene. We knew them and we’d put a record out on their label, but it didn’t feel like a scene. I think it was pretty much a journalist thing. We don’t really sound like them you know, maybe we’ve got similar references, but that’s all.

Trish: In the great scheme of all the music in the world, we are occupying the same ground.

Tim: I think the most immediate thing you could say is about the idea of using analogue keyboards really, and it was like a new idea at the time, or something that was popular, and that’s probably why we got linked to them. We like them you know…

James: Yeah, it’s never really bothered us. They’re great…

Trish: I’m sure that if we’d compared record collections, we would see where we link….

You name people such as The United States Of America or Ennio Morricone as influences, but how would you say they influenced the way you write/arrange music?
Tim: With The United States Of America, it’s more the idea of that band rather than a literal interpretation of what they sound like. They were one of the few bands in the late sixties who would fuse avant-guard with pop and rock you know, probably along with the Velvet Underground. When we listen to that, it suggests the kind of freedom that you can have with song writing, that we don’t need to be tied down to chords and stuff. It’s that idea that a song can go anywhere in its arrangements and sound and feel that probably appealed to us.

James: I think with this album, we’ve took these ideas that we really love and realised their own sound.

Haha Sound was recorded in James’s house. How did not being rushed to record impact on the album?
Trish: It gave us a bit of freedom

James: it also brings a lot of problems with it. I don’t know of many bands who do that really. They go in a studio with a producer and things…

Tim: I think that by the time the studio had moved back to your (James’) house, the shit was hitting the fan really. What was going to happen? We’d moved back, things had been going wrong, even when Neil started and the drums worked, time was of the essence you know. We were breaking deadlines, and we put pressure on ourselves.

Were you pushed by Warp to get the album ready?
James: Not at all

Trish: I think that with loosing Rob, it just seemed like what would be would be, you know. There’s no point forcing things, if they’re not ready they’ll happen in their own time. What’s the point of putting all that stress and pressure on bands and people? When Rob died, there was a real step back… kind of “hold on, there’s a bigger picture, it’s not all about racing along with your head down trying to make it on time.

How does it differ from The Noise…? How would you say your sound has evolved or changed?
Tim: I think the intent come from the same place, but the production has evolved, the song writing as well. The Noise Made By People was more…

Trish: Trying to get somewhere.

James: It was more like a scrap book. It was much less of a singular thing, whereas even though some of the songs were written some time ago, the new LP is much more of a collective whole.

Trish: I think there’s more of a kind of optimism to it as well. Much more of a spirit about it, the rhythmical elements are more profound this time.

Did you sit down and think about that or did things happen quite naturally?
Tim: No, we never sat down or discuss anything.

Trish: There are things that you think are missing, like you think “I’d like to do a bit more of that this time”. I think what we said was that it would be nice to have a bit more of a rhythmical element in the music. You do have that little wish list that you bring to yourself.

Trish, you name a few cinematographic references for this album (Milos Forman’s Love Of A Blonde, Hans Richter’s Dreams That Money Can Buy, or Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders, a Czech horror/fairytale). Has cinema always been a big influence, and how?
Trish: I think it’s more and more. We’re lucky enough to have a great little video shop in Moseley, and lots of friends work there so you get free videos, they never charge us. It’s just a great cult video shop that has a great Eastern European film section, avant-garde, animation… I just go down, get a lot of videos, tape-to-tape them and watch them at my own leisure. When I fancy a bit of telly and I don’t want to watch fucking Big Brother or whatever shit they try to push on me next, I’ll watch Daisies, or Valerie… and hearing the soundtrack as well, you’ll never see the film released over here… It was released on Redemption, but it’ll never be released on DVD for the next twenty years, if it ever does. It’s a great way to access soundtracks without having to go to some dusty European record shop…

Tim: Or hear a soundtrack that never came out or you’d never get to hear it…

James: It’s the great thing about cinema. Everything’s in there. It’s not like music and cinema separately. They’re the same thing. We probably can draw just as much from the film as from the music.

Trish: We get all sorts from films. Music, video ideas, press shot ideas, lyrics…


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